Archive for Community
Your place in this world is not only the holy ground of God’s good work in your life, where you are is also the holy ground of God’s good work through your life.
Our relationships in life are wrapped up with our purpose. It’s not just the people we choose to have surround us. Its also the place that God has planted us. God gave Abram a place, then a people. But he also gave Abram a purpose. He was blessed not because he was “blessable.” He was blessed to be a blessing. My friend Cliff Jenkins used to challenge his congregation to “take an inventory of your life so you know what God expects of you.” That inventory includes who you are, what you have, and who you have with you. It also includes where you are.
Yesterday I mentioned that your place in the world informs your mission in life. By surveying where you physically live, work, shop, recreate, and worship, you gather invaluable details about God’s will for your life. Not only does your place inform you concerning God’s will, it also becomes the holy ground of God’s good work in your life.
The apostle Paul said it this way: “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19, NLT) In other words, your physical body is where heaven and earth meet. As children we grew up talking about the church building being “God’s house.” But scripturally, God’s house is your body; the place where heaven and earth continually meet. That means your life is lived in that dynamic tension…
The tension between now and not yet;
The tension between here and there;
The tension between time and eternity;
The tension between material and spiritual; and
The tension between pilgrim and citizen.
Each week in worship we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” So where does that begin? I don’t think it begins as some form of external, definable event. I think it begins in you and me, right where we are. Understanding that your body is the great house of God allows us to see that where we are is the holy ground of God’s good work in our lives. Tomorrow I’ll finish this week’s thread up by talking a bit about the purpose behind all of this.
The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:1-3, NLT).
What value is added to your life by understanding your context? For one, your place informs your mission in life. The gospel of the Kingdom of God begins where you are. Your place is your place of influence; the place where you will be salt and light. In Genesis 12:1-3, God first gave Abram a place, then he gave him a people.
We can ask “Why am I here?” But there’s a better question: “Why does God have me here?” Adding the dimension of God to the question brings divine perspective on your place. Perhaps you’ve gone online and searched for your home on Google maps. If you use the satellite feature, you can see your house from high in the sky. But you don’t just see your home. You see that your home is situated in a neighborhood, which is in the larger context of a community.
You are where you are by divine design. But your places and spaces are not just about where you are. It’s also about sharing borders with others that you can serve as salt and light.
For the past seven weeks I’ve been preaching and posting on the essential, indispensable relationships we need in order to successfully navigate life. Over those weeks I’ve challenged you to find specific people to enhance your life in ways you could not on your own. By way of quick review:
You Need a Jonathan—a true friend who loves you as much as himself or herself;
You Need a Nathan—a truth teller who will mind your business;
You Need a Barnabas—an encourager who will help you through the “dark nights of the soul;”
You Need a Paul—a mentor a God-energized guide who gives the gift of growth;
You Need a Levi—an outcast who will remind you that life is not measured by getting but by giving;
You Need a Moses—an intercessor who will take a seat on top of the hill and pray for you while you do battle in the valley; and,
You Need a Rhoda—a small voice to demonstrate how we are to relate to God and his kingdom.
Each of these influencers help you to become all that God created you to be. The final relationship deals with the context of all of these relationships…your place in the world. You are who you are in time and space. Your place in the world is your context of your life. You are not here today by some stroke of fate or cosmic accident. You are where you are by divine design. Check back in this week as I dive into this final subject.
Having a “small voice” in your circle of relationships can help you in at least five ways. For example, Rhoda’s keep you snug. Children live in the land of make believe where everything is possible. It’s that snugness makes dreaming possible and remind us to stay alive. We adults separate work and play. But for children, their work is play. Mark Twain said, “Children see work and play as words used for the same thing under different circumstances. Children keep us snug, and that helps because you have to be snug to hear the voice of God.
Children not only keep us snug, they also keep us authentic. That’s why we play games with “boo” and “grrrr.” Have you noticed that almost every children’s story has a villain? That’s how kids learn to master their fears. Story book villains helps them learn that monsters are real. Not the under the bed kind of monsters, but the monsters that we adults are all too familiar with in everyday life. We need to face the monsters of life and turn them into instruments of creativity and growth. Children scare the pretense away and shoo out the trite. You can’t be a hero without a villain.
Third, children keep you small and humble. Kids know that meaning and significance are found in the small things. The communion elements, both bread and cup, are small.
Next, children keep you light. Their story books are filled with light hearted and light headed airborne characters. Gravity is an adult disease that leads to the grave. Its natural to children to be idealistic. You have to learn to be a realist.
Finally, children keep you alive. In a child’s world, every thing is alive. Animals, plants, trees, inanimate objects all become alive and talk.
The value they add is that they help us see everything for the first time.
Jesus said that if we want to enter God’s Kingdom, we have to come as a child. If we want to understand what it means to trust God and place our faith in Him, we have to do so as a child. And if we want to know what it means to follow God passionately, we need to look to children as our examples. That’s why its important for us to relate appropriately and frequently with kids. They set the pace.
When it came time for Jesus to showcase his ideal model for faith, he didn’t point to the scholar or the business person. He didn’t gesture toward the athlete or the entertainer. He chose a child. That’s why you need a Rhoda in your life. Rhoda?! Who was that? Rhoda was the first voice heard from a Christian woman in the church in the book of Acts. That woman was a child. Rhoda was the doorkeeper in the house of Mary in Jerusalem, and here’s her story.
The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate. Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered. So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening. They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him. Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leadersc had planned to do to me!” When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer. He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!” “You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.” Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed. He motioned for them to quiet down and told them how the Lord had led him out of prison (Acts 12:6-17, NLT).
Sometimes it takes a child to point out the obvious. When Jesus wanted to show what discipleship was like, he plopped a child in front of his listeners. Why? Is it because children are innocent? Pure? Truthful? Hardly! (Feel free to insert your own story here about any toddler/parent exchange at the candy rack at the grocery check out.) Then why choose a child? Because it was a child and children were of no value in Jesus’ day. They possessed a rank below women and slaves, slightly ahead of beasts. “Little ones,” especially females, were viewed as worthless and insignificant. They were despised, degraded, and neglected. But in the gospel according to Jesus, “Little ones to him belong, they are weak but he is strong.” The gospel according to Jesus shows that little is large. Children first was Jesus’ model because in the Kingdom of God the last are first.
Tomorrow I’ll begin a listing of five ways that children teach us about connecting with God.
One concluding thought for this week’s series of posts. Never forget that Jesus is praying for you. That’s been his task since the ascension following the resurrection. His intercession is the basis for our intercession. Today I leave you with these two verses that remind you of that very important fact:
“For Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, praying for us” (Romans 8:34, NLT).
“Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever t intercede with God on their behalf” (Hebrews 7:25, NLT).
What should you look for in an intercessor? What characteristics should he or she possess?
1. An intercessor should be someone who loves you.
Your intercessor will love you and desire more for you than is in their power to give. From more than duty or obligation, intercessors will offer prayer as a gift of love.
2. An intercessor should be someone who actually prays.
Pray-ers pray. They “stand in the gap,” building spiritual bridges between where you are and the throne of God. They are not counselors, advisors, guides, encouragers, or mentors. They are certainly not gossips! They are people who pray.
3. An intercessor will pray for spiritual needs in addition to the physical needs.
I love the writings of the Apostle Paul. I must confess that I’m always a bit ashamed when I read the prayers he offered on behalf of his readers. Paul’s readership faced horrible life circumstances, and I’m sure those concerns were top of mind to him. But the prayers that have been recorded and preserved for 2,000 years are the ones that address spiritual needs. Intercessors are sympathetic to the tangible battles in the valley. But they see the physical struggles from a spiritual dimension, and that will be the thing that gives shape and focus to their prayers.
There are probably other things you will want to consider as you seek an intercessor. But these three things will easily help you identify the person that will sit on the the hill top high above your valley.
While the people of Israel were still at Rephidim, the warriors of Amalek attacked them. Moses commanded Joshua, “Choose some men to go out and fight the army of Amalek for us. Tomorrow, I will stand at the top of the hill, holding the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did what Moses had commanded and fought the army of Amalek. Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of a nearby hill. As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle. After the victory, the LORD instructed Moses, “Write this down on a scroll as a permanent reminder, and read it aloud to Joshua: I will erase the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-nissi (which means “the LORD is my banner”). (Exodus 17:8-15, NLT)
How will an intercessor benefit your life?
1. When you are facing battles in life, an intercessor will remind you that God is in control.
As Moses sat on top of the hill, he held the staff of God in his hands. That staff was a symbol of God’s presence and intervention. Even though Joshua and the army had fight the battle in the valley, they could glance up and see that God was present and in control. An intercessor will remind you that no matter what you face, God is on his throne.
2. An intercessor will remind you that God is aware. He is not an absentee landlord. Moses not only held the staff of God, he was positioned on the hill top, giving him a clear vantage point to observe all of the battle. My brother in law is a defensive coordinator at a small university in the south. During the game, he prefers the box to the sideline because sitting in the box allows him to see the entire field of play. God sees your entire life and is fully aware of what you are facing.
3. An intercessor will inspire you to press on in faith. Moses hands grew weak during the battle. So Aaron and Hur stood beside him and steadied his hands and kept them lifted. They refused to let Moses quit, which in turn encouraged the warriors to press on and not give up. Good intercessors know that battles are seldom won with one blow. Sometimes it takes a lot of time and energy to work through whatever it is we are facing the valley. Intercessors encourage us to never give up and to never quit.
4. An intercessor will remind you that the battle belongs to the Lord. At the conclusion of the battle, God got the credit for the victory. And he still gets the credit for the victories we experience today.
Having an intercessor is an important relationship to have in life. They provide these four benefits, and more! Tomorrow I’ll post three characteristics of an intercessor that will help you identify one if you don’t have one.
Who prays for you? Let me rephrase the question. Who do you have in your life that specifically and intentionally makes it their business to pray for you? Do you have a person like that in your life? The church word for such a person is intercessor. An intercessor is one who pleads your case to another. In the spiritual realm, an intercessor is the person who goes to God in prayer on your behalf, building spiritual bridges between your life and the throne of God.
This week’s lesson comes from the Old Testament book of Exodus. The back ground of the story is an epic battle between the transient Israelites and the army of Amalek. Israel was minding their own business en route to the land of promise following their liberation from slavery in Egypt. Amalek saw this unarmed band of Hebrews and determined to pick a fight. What follows in the story is a point of interest. Moses sent Joshua and the army into the valley for battle and then positioned himself on the hilltop to pray. The story links the two activities in such a way that the reader understands that the battle in the valley and the prayer on the hilltop are inseparable actions.
When facing epic battles in the valleys of life you need someone up on the hilltop, so to speak, talking to God on your behalf. I’ve been blessed throughout my life to have had some wonderful people who have been dedicated to praying for me. There are family, friends, and church members in almost every church I’ve served who have devoted themselves to praying for me. Who is taking a seat on top of the hill while you face the battles below? That’s what I want to post about this week. Check back in tomorrow and I’ll dive into the text of Exodus 17:8-16, and share some ways that intercessors can be beneficial.